I wrote these getting started instructions for everyone I give Kombucha scobys to, but they can be of value to you as well if you have obtained a scoby from someone else, mail order, or even if you are just interested in what it takes to brew Kombucha.

I start with the ingredients you will need, followed by the instructions to get your first gallon going. Then I will discuss how to know when your kombucha brew is done, and answer some common questions.

Milk oolong kombucha in one gallon glass jar

First You Will Need to Gather These Things

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • Large pot that can boil a gallon of water
  • 1 gallon glass jar
  • Large stirring spoon
  • Breathable cloth or paper towel, and a rubber band
  • Eight tea bags, or equivalent loose leaf
  • One kombucha scoby!
One gallon of water boiling on the stove top, and one cup of sugar and 8 tea bags about to be added

Set Up Your Tea For Brewing

  1. Boil one gallon of water on the stove top in a large, open pot
  2. At boil, turn off heat and stir in one cup of sugar and the tea
  3. Stir the water to blend in the sugar
  4. Let the tea steep for as long as is recommended for that variety. Usually this is about 4 minutes. Then remove the tea leaves
  5. Let the tea cool to room temperature
  6. Transfer the tea into a 1 gallon glass container. I like to add the liquid that comes with the scoby first, into the empty jar. That way when I pour the steeped sweet tea on top it mixes itself
  7. Gently slip your scoby in to your gallon of tea. It may float on top, sink to the bottom, or lay sideways. All are fine. Also add the fluid that came with your scoby, if you didn’t do this earlier
  8. Cover the gallon glass container with a breathable cover. I use a doubled over paper towel, but you can also use breathable cloth
  9. Place the container out of direct sunlight and let brew

When is My Kombucha Tea Done?

It usually takes about 7 – 14 days to brew kombucha, depending upon the age of your scoby and the temperature of your house. The kombucha is technically “done” when you like it’s flavor. At first you might want to schedule a taste test for one week after setting up a brew, and then every 2 or 3 days after that until you like how it tastes. The scoby eats the sugar, so your tea will become more tart and less sweet the longer you let it brew. If you let it go too long, it will become similar to vinegar and be undrinkable. If this happens, the scoby is still fine, just throw away the tea and start a new batch.

Milk oolong kombucha in one gallon glass jar

Answers To Some Common Questions

What kind of tea and sugar should I use?

I prefer organic sugar, but the regular stuff you get from the grocery store will work just fine too. I also like to use high quality tea. The flavor is stronger than your typical grocery store varieties (Stash, Bigelow, Celestial Seasonings, etc) Don’t use flavored tea (like Earl Grey) because many of the flavorings can weaken or kill your scoby! Just play it safe to get started, but don’t worry, there is a wide range of flavor options after you get your basic brewing down!

Do I need to use filtered water?

Additives such as clorine can harm your scoby and hinder the growth of your kombucha.  It’s best to use filtered water when you make your tea, but in a pinch regular tap water will usually work fine.

Is Kombucha Caffeinated?

The scoby is fueled by tannins, caffeine and sugar. By the time you drink the Kombucha, there will be very little of those left because the scoby will consume them, and put out probiotics in return.

What should I cover the jars with?

You can use all kinds of cloth materials for the cover. Just make sure it lets air in, but not bugs. Cheesecloth is too porous and you can end up with fruit flies in your brew. I use two paper towels stacked (tear off two, fold together at the perforation), and then use a rubber band to affix it around the jar opening.

Is My Tea Taking Too Long?

Your scoby will get stronger and bigger as it develops, so your tea will also get stronger quicker over time. Don’t worry if your first few gallons are slow/weak.

Has My Scoby Gone Bad? It Looks Funky!

Your scoby will look funky as it does it’s thing, and the type of tea can colorize it. You might also see tendrils grow down. This is normal. Just watch for mold. If you get mold, throw the whole batch away.

Why is there Is white stuff growing on top of my tea?

Every time you brew kombucha you will grow a new scoby on top! You can use these new scobys in other gallons of kombucha, or you can give them away. Sometimes if they are really thin and small I will leave both scobys in the next tea batch, just to give it a chance to thicken up before it flies solo in it’s own batch of tea.

Can I Touch the Scoby?

It is totally ok to touch your scoby with your bare hands! The first time might creep you out, but after that it’s just like holding a slippery, rubbery pancake. Just make sure to wash your hands before you do it so you don’t transfer weird stuff from the world into your kombucha.

Why Is My Scoby Sinking?

Your scoby may float on the top, or sink to the bottom, or do some sideways floaty thing in between. All totally normal. And if you accidentally rip your scoby, or it starts growing together into some weird shape, that’s fine too. It will still work. Just plop it all into your tea and go for it!